Get Immediate Help
If you or someone you're with shows the signs of a heart attack, don't wait to seek help. Calling 911 is the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. While Emergency Medical Services are treating you on the way to the hospital, a team is preparing for your arrival.
The most appropriate facility in the region to care for heart attack patients is The Medical Center. The Medical Center is an Accredited Chest Pain Center with PCI designated by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC). Percutaneous coronary intervention, commonly referred to as PCI, is the use of cardiac catheterization to treat the narrowed coronary arteries of the heart. It allows cardiologists to go directly to the source of and open an obstruction, thus preserving heart muscle and potentially reducing death. But if a heart attack patient needs emergency intervention beyond PCI, The Medical Center is the only hospital in Southcentral Kentucky that can perform open heart surgery if needed.
Heart Attack Warning Signs
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense - like the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. According to the American Heart Association, here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. This feeling often comes along with chest discomfort. But it can occur before the chest discomfort.
- Other signs. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Heart Attack Signs for Women
Like men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort. But other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain are more likely to happen in women than in men. According to the American Heart Association, women may also experience pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue. If you are a woman, watch for these warning signs and call 911 immediately.
Aspirin Can Save Your Life
Medical Center EMS reports that more than half of households who called 911 with heart attack symptoms did not have aspirin on hand. Aspirin can help prevent blood clots from forming that could block blood flow to the heart. The American Heart Association recommends keeping 324 mg noncoated aspirin or four baby aspirin on hand in an easily accessible location.
Early Heart Attack Care
Heart attacks have "beginnings" or early, mild symptoms that can occur days or weeks before an actual heart attack. You can put yourself at risk when you don’t recognize or even worse, ignore these early warning signs. You miss your opportunity to prevent a heart attack and avoid the damage to your heart - damage that can debilitate or even kill you.
Early Heart Attack Symptoms
Four key early warning signs to watch for:
- Shortness of breath without exertion when doing normal activities.
- Chronic heartburn.
- Discomfort or pain that may disappear or be intermittent. Crushing, squeezing or pressure can occur in the chest, shoulders, neck and jaw.
- Feeling of impending doom: Some patients have reported having a feeling of anxiety or fear before a heart attack. Especially when combined with other heart attack symptoms, this feeling can be an early indicator.
Other early symptoms include fatigue, nausea, feeling of fullness and back pain.
According to the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC), these "beginnings" described above occur in over half of all heart attack patients. Be attentive to these early symptoms; do not ignore them; and, do not delay seeking medical attention. Early recognition of these warning signs and medical intervention can prevent damage to the heart muscle.
Take the EHAC Oath
The SCPC is promoting early heart attack care (EHAC) and urging healthcare professionals and patients to take the following oath to help prevent the untimely death and disability from heart disease:
"I understand that heart attacks have beginnings and on occasion, signs of an impending heart attack may include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, shoulder and/or arm pain, and weakness. These may occur hours or weeks before the actual heart attack.
I solemnly swear that if it happens to me or anyone I know, I will call 9-1-1 or activate our Emergency Medical Services."